The Boston Red Sox clinched their second straight trip to the playoffs, rallying past the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, 7-3, last night in St. Petersburg, Fla., behind Manny Ramirez's American League-leading 43rd home run.
Johnny Damon hit his career-high 19th homer for the Red Sox, who ensured themselves no worse than the AL wild-card berth. Boston closed within three games of the AL East-leading New York Yankees with six games remaining.
Boston players shook hands and exchanged hugs and high-fives after the final out.
"No one's going bananas. We still have a job to do," Damon said. "There's a lot more business to take care of. Right now, we're going to go celebrate a little bit."
The Red Sox, held hitless for four innings, went ahead on Damon's three-run homer and Ramirez's 458-foot, two-run drive after Tampa Bay starter Scott Kazmir was ejected for hitting Ramirez and Kevin Millar with pitches in the fourth inning.
Tampa Bay Manager Lou Piniella also was tossed after Kazmir plunked Ramirez and Millar in a span of four pitches. The first one appeared to be retaliation for Boston's Bronson Arroyo hitting Aubrey Huff and Tino Martinez the previous inning.
Arroyo (10-9), who won his fifth straight decision, has hit 20 batters this season, the most in the majors. The umpires huddled after Arroyo hit Martinez with an open base, but did not issue a warning. Kazmir, who held the Red Sox hitless through 31/3 innings, hit Ramirez with the first pitch, and both benches were warned. Millar was hit on a 1-1 pitch, though that one just appeared to get away from the 20-year-old Kazmir. The benches emptied, but no punches were thrown.
* ATHLETICS 6, MARINERS 5: Bobby Crosby's sacrifice fly with one out in the ninth scored pinch runner Esteban German with the winning run in Oakland as the A's maintained their one-game lead in the AL West over second-place Anaheim.
Oakland held Ichiro Suzuki to one hit, leaving him five shy of George Sisler's 84-year-old record of 257.
* ANGELS 5, RANGERS 3: Chone Figgins had an RBI triple and then scored the go-ahead run on an infield grounder in the eighth inning in Arlington, Tex.
Bartolo Colon (17-12) allowed just four hits in eight-plus innings, becoming the first pitcher to beat Texas six times in a season.
* TIGERS 4, WHITE SOX 2: Dmitri Young hit a tiebreaking, two-run homer in the sixth to help host Detroit stop a five-game losing streak.
* INDIANS 6, ROYALS 1: Casey Blake drove in three runs and Jake Westbrook (14-9) pitched seven strong innings in Kansas City, Mo.